Monthly Archives: October 2015

Just buggin’: remembering when VW was about love, not hate

There was a time when Volkswagen was a harbinger of  good vibes, a touchstone of the counter culture and synonymous with idiosyncratic individualism.  That was long before the current era of cheating, lying and greed as typified by the scandal that has gross polluters on the road marketed as “Clean Diesels.”   Perhaps Volkswagen isn’t alone in this kind of no-holds-barred deception. Automotive journalist, pundit and renaissance man Jamie Kitman has written that  “the world’s carmakers have the long-range vision and ethical integrity of a roving band of rabid raccoons.”  While we think this broad brush characterization may be unfair to those masked procyonidae, it would certainly seem to apply to today’s VW where ethics were cast aside and the long-range vision seemed to be to continue cheating on the assumption they’d never be caught.

We all scream for ice cream

Georgia on our minds; we all scream for ice cream

We’re well aware of the marque’s Third Reich origins but in the decades after “the unpleasantness,” the VW Beetle was a cipher for free thinking and social responsibility.  Feral Cars Field Scout and Coachella Valley bon vivant Ronald Ahrens encountered such a free thinker recently.

His report:  That’s Georgia at the wheel of her ’65 Beetle. She wouldn’t step out and pose with her car. ‘I don’t know what your motives are,’ she said. But she did explain that she fell in love with Beetles after buying one new in 1966 and driving it 43 years. “I had this one standing by.” She says it has given her some problems because everything “went out of adjustment” at once, but she’s found an honest mechanic to put it back in adjustment. I pointed out the bag by her door and learned it contained ice cream she couldn’t finish. Then she asked if I’d throw it away for her, which I’ve done. It was 1.5 quarts of Dreyer’s chocolate.

Sunny bug

Sunny bug. Note: aftermarket pop-out rear windows

Inspired by Ronald’s encounter with Georgia and her 50 year-old Bug, we offer a range of images of similar Vdubs found in the wild, all of which make us nostalgic for the time when Volkswagens were thought of in the same terms as family pets rather than as polluting pestilence.

Eat your heart out Herbie

Beetle with juice

People loved their Volkswagens, they gave them names, decorated them and even raced them. They were fiercely loyal to the car whose basic shape remained the same over a span of 65 years.  Innumerable baby boomers learned how to drive behind the wheel and flat windshield of a VW and figured out how to shift for themselves with a real clutch and that rubbery gearbox.

Racy livery

Herbie’s cousin

Convertible versions, built for VW by Karmann, were especially cherchez.  The horsehair stuffed tops were folded down by hand and the resulting ‘top stack’ protruded over the back of the car creating a fabric spoiler. ..not that the VW ragtops actually need a spoiler in light of the fact they shared the same mechanical components with the standard Bug.

Vdub drop top

Topless Vdub

The number of surviving Beetles is quite remarkable since the last new one sold here dates back to early 1979 though they continued to be sold in Mexico and Brazil into the early 21st Century.

Nice rack!

Nice rack!

We’re kind of loving the roof rack on this early ’70s Bug; the white one below dates from around ’66 or ’67.

Refrigerator white

Wolfsburg white

We found an old Beetle that, based on the tiny taillights, fabric sunroof and pop-out semaphores in lieu of turn signals, would seem to date from the late 1950s.  How can you not love something as innocent as this?

Old school rules

Old school rules

Keeping score?

Keeping score?

We found this brilliant TV commercial for the ’65 Volkswagen, not unlike Georgia’s, that suggested that Beetles had a resale advantage over their domestic counterparts.  This glorious ’65, offered for sale in nearby O’Fallon IL confirms the point made in that commercial 50 years ago.  It’s priced at just under $16,000, about ten times what it cost new which, alas, is probably not going to be the case for one of those newly built “Clean Diesels” in 2065.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

 

 

Repost: Car of future passed

In honor of Back To the Future Day,we’re revisiting a post of the past.

Stainless steel deal

Stainless steel deal

The year was 1981 and John Z. DeLorean, “Father of the GTO,” having gone rogue after an heroic career at General Motors, finally launched his dream car that he modestly named after himself.  Stainless steel body. Check.  Gull wing doors. Check. Mid-engine. Check.  What could possibly go wrong?  As it happened, most everything. Turns out that DeLorean’s Tuckeresque quixotic windmill tilt-a-whirl was squeezed out for numerous financial, technical and, perhaps, pharmacological reasons, coupled with his own hubris and the inclination of the entrenched auto makers to make life as difficult as possible for upstarts.

0 - 88 in 30 years

0 – 88 in 30 years

We found a well-used example in a “Doctors Only” parking space the other day that is, apparently, a commuter car for a “hipocrat.”  While the DMC12 was projected to retail for $12,000 it ended up costing more than twice that amount despite the fact that power was provided by a somewhat anemic PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) V6. The chassis, though, as engineered by Lotus, was on supercar par.

McFly with me

McFly with me

Despite that shortcoming in the propulsion department, an estimated 9,000 units were built at the factory in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland.  Actually, not too shabby in terms of failed indie car numbers — anybody remember the Vector W8?  Cizeta-Moroder V16T?  Bricklen SV-1?  OK, they built a bunch of that latter gull-winger but not even a third of DeLorean’s output.

Hoverboard on board

Hoverboard on board

Click here to go back to Back To The Future as Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown character introduces Fox’s McFly to the perks of DeLorean ownership.   Want your very own?  There are quite a few to choose from right here in nearby Bradenton FL.  Be sure to ask about the extended flux capacitor warranty.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.

Jag-u-ahs lurking in the urban wild

 

About to pounce

About to pounce

Being the creature of habit that we are, we take the same route each morning for an non-motorized jaunt.  This circuit never fails to bring us into proximity with a ’69 Jaguar, an XJ 6 as it tells us in a huge font on the trunk lid.  No, we’re not going to call it a “boot” lid because boots are worn on one’s feet.   We admit the car isn’t in the best of shape but we do know it runs.. it dutifully goes from one side of the street to the other and doesn’t accrue parking tickets.  There’s a significant gash on the left side front door — you can almost see the window mechanism within and it wears just two out of four wheel covers.

Holy relic

Holy relic

Still, we’re fond of this old Coventry-born trouper.  It has an air of an old money aristocrat (or, perhaps, gone money) that lends it a certain dignity in decay. You can almost smell the moth-eaten Harris Tweed.

Lump taker

Lump taker

Look at the “cathedral” style tail light lens – a shapely work of art crafted by Joseph Lucas Limited,  the UK parts supplier that has long been the butt of rude jokes uttered, quite predictably and drearily so,  by “car guys” who think it’s funny to tell the same joke countless times. Har!      In the tighter shot, you can actually read the numerals ’68’ in bas-relief but we’re betting this is registered as a ’69 because it wears year-appropriate, federally mandated, side markers.  Sorry about all the geeking out but this car was in production pretty much uninterrupted (except by many strikes) from introduction in 1968 through three mild updates over the course of an almost quarter century run so it’s quite a significant piece.  It was, almost sheepishly, replaced by a series of Ford-fostered XJs, the styling for which was unabashedly based on their swingin’ sixties forbear.

Place of worship

Coventry cathedral

Extreme CLOSE-UP!

Extreme CLOSE-UP!

This car is a real inspiration to feral aficionados, especially because it is, arguably, a bridge to unite the automotive kind, like us, and the feline oriented ones — like us.  That leaping hood ornament is the link.

Faded Jag's "good side"

Faded Jag’s “good side”

The left side (where the steering would most definitely not be in home market cars) is quite unblemished but we’re tempted to take up a collection to buy hub caps.

Nice kitty

Nice kitty

This one is powered by the same 4.2 liter straight six used in the XK-E, officially ‘E-Type,’ but c’mon, who says “E-Type” if they’re not smoking a meerschaum pipe?  Which is to say there’s a powerful cat lurking under that formal facade.  Actually this generation XJ was quite a radical departure for Jaguar.  E-Type acceptance — there, we said it — may have emboldened Jag to discard post-war styling  that related more to the ’30s and ’40s than to the ’50s and ’60s.  The XJ6 was competitive with Mercedes S-Class, BMW’s 7 series and all manner of Lincolns and Cadillacs.  Because of, ahem, mobility issues, they’re much less common than those pretender makes.  As you are, doubtless, aware, Jaguars of this period, marked by the British auto industry’s fast fade into non-existence, don’t have the best reputation for reliability.  It’s a fact that there quite a few were converted to GM 350 V8 power in the ’70s and ’80s, a very decisive way to deal with questionable UK components and build quality.

Slick Brit

Slick Brit

It’s always exciting to behold an XJC, a somewhat limited production variant of a car that’s already highly regarded for its beauty if not its utility.  This XJC 12, a pillarless two door “hardtop” version that is, in some ways, the ultimate expression of the XJ. This example is one of just 1,873 12 cylinder ( 5.3 liter) cars built, both left and right and drive. That’s  out of a total of 10,000 for both 6 and 12 cylinder models produced over a span of just four model years, ’73 – ’78.

White cat coupe

White cat coupe

The big bumpers of this ’77 compromise the machine’s inherent grace but it’s still lithe looking for such a heavy car. That vinyl top was applied out of necessity.  Explanation: because the car’s structure lacked the bracing that a solid pillar between the front and rear side windows affords, it had some tendency to flex which would crack the paint on the roof.  Necessity, being the mother that it is, prompted Jaguar to adopt the American look of vinyl topping but we think they pulled it off quite tastefully.  Please note the lack of opera lights and/or gratuitous stuffing and tufting as one would expect in an analogous domestic car that relates to this niche market such as Cadillac’s gargantuan Eldorado or Lincoln’s Continental Mk V, offering in Bill Blass, Cartier, Givenchy and Pucci designer editions.

Crack the code in style

Crack the code in style

One on this on each side: ambidextrous fill-ups

One of these on each side: ambidextrous fill-ups!

Feral Cars Field Scout Bonnie Ruttan captured this big bumpered XJ, probably an ’80 or ’81, on the mean streets of Pasadena, CA. The roulette wheel-themed steel wheels are a sporty but, somehow, generic, touch.

Rubber bumper buddy

Blue pate special

To the best of our knowledge the motor hasn’t been swapped out for a GM 350 as found in Chevy Malibus, Olds Cutlasses and all manner of Buicks and Pontiacs though we do understand that a member of nobility must do what one can to keep up appearances and occasionally avail oneself of trustworthy transport.

Place your bests, black or alloy

Place your bests, black or alloy

We found this pretty awesome ’73 XJ6 in nearby Wilton, CT. It’s a low mileage (70K) beauty in great shape offered for a mere $14,500.  What could possibly go wrong?  Just to confirm we’re not blowing smoke about switching to Chevy power click here to see about modular conversion kits to put an American heart in your British kitty.

Cat's eye view

Cat’s eye view

Dig this French commercial for the XJ from back in ’76.  The tag line translates to “Jaguar, one of two or three better things that a man should demand of life.”  This has us thinking about the the other one (or two) things implied here.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.

Note: While we strive for factual accuracy in our posts, we readily acknowledge that we we sometimes make inadvertent mistakes.  If you happen to catch one please don’t sit there and fume; let us know where we went wrong and we’ll do our best to correct things.